ED cleans up after drunks

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 09:31 15/08/2014

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A surge in drunk people needing emergency care in Blenheim after boozed-up fights and assaults shows the town is no longer safe to walk around at night, says a Wairau Hospital boss.

Emergency department clinical head Dr Andrew Morgan said his staff dealt with at least one or two victims of assault every weekend.

Alcohol was the contributing factor in violence-related presentations, which were more common between Friday night and Sunday morning, Morgan said.

Most victims were aged between 20 and 40, he said.

"They've either been assaulted walking the streets at night, while they're walking home from town, at parties, in bars, after fights, or at home," he said.

Patients as young as 14 had been brought in by ambulance or friends, either unconscious, vomiting, or too drunk to look after themselves, Morgan said.

But it wasn't just young people - alcohol was a problem with all age groups.

"We get the odd elderly person in their 70s or 80s who is brought in by ambulance, too intoxicated to stay home," he said.

Exactly how many people turned up at Accident and Emergency as a result of alcohol was hard to pinpoint, as the data were based on injuries.

A new triage system which started three months ago was aimed at changing that, with nurses required to ask patients how much they had to drink, as well as judge whether the patient looked drunk and whether their injury was a result of intoxication.

The data would probably still not be robust enough, Morgan said.

"It's still likely to grossly underestimate the impact alcohol has on the number of presentations at the emergency department."

Life in the department would be a "whole lot easier" if alcohol didn't exist, Morgan said.

"They're in your face, demanding, vomiting, which someone has to clean up, and repeatedly asking questions," he said.

"They are a significant drain on our time."

Marlborough area commander Inspector Simon Feltham said the environment and population of Marlborough had changed over the past 25 years, which would have impacted on people's behaviour.

Twenty-five years ago bars were not open until 3am, the drinking age was not 18, alcohol was not available in supermarkets and RTDs hadn't been invented.

"A huge police resource is directed towards keeping members of the public safe in and around bars, and our messages around drink-driving have been loud and direct," he said.

"At the end of the day, individuals have to get the message that their drinking affects those around them and can also make them vulnerable to victimisation."

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- The Marlborough Express

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